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Archive for May, 2012

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Teh satires

Hot weather is the enemy of comedy. It decreases your motivation to write and makes potential audience members choose to stay away in favour of a beer garden or just sitting somewhere in the sun.

Both of effects of the hot weather were proven by my gig yesterday. It was an early evening kick-off, so we were wrapped up before 7pm.

And there were four beings in the audience; by that, I mean that there were two people and two flies buzzing around the stage. You know you’re clutching at straws when you’re counting insects as audience members. To be fair, I probably got a better reaction from the bluebottles.

The other effect of hot weather, in it decreasing the motivation to write, was proven by me. The theme of the gig was that the material had to be written about the news stories that had occurred in the previous week.

Now, I am normally something of a news junkie. It’s all part of being a recovering journalist. TV news is pretty much the only thing I watch, I should add that I don’t watch much TV; and I have been known to be asked to leave a supermarket after fuelling my news addiction by reading the papers without buying them. So any normal week, I know exactly what is going on in the world.

But this hasn’t been any normal week as I’ve spent it down in Brighton, having very little to do with the news. Luckily, I had torn-up bits of newspapers stuck to parts of my body, working in a similar way to nicotine patches.

Then, with the hot weather continuing when I returned from Brighton on Friday, and then on Saturday, I didn’t actually get around to writing anything. So instead, I rehashed some of my older material that is vaguely topical and unleashed it on the four-being audience. I was then reminded why I didn’t do the material any more when it received little or no reaction.

The closest I did get to a topical gag, was suggesting that the 63 stone girl, who had to have a wall removed to get her out of her home, swap lifestyles for three months with Keira Knightly. The 63 stone girl would then have to star in Keira’s films, which I would then actually want to go and see. This got a laugh at least.

But on the whole, my ‘topical’ satire wasn’t quite up to scratch. But I have now at least been reacquainted with my beloved news.

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Brighton Fringe – Day Four

With our final show yesterday, we were determined to go out on a high and give Snigger Happy 2012 a decent send-off.

And we did, he had our largest audience of the run, with 23 people filling our small room rather nicely. Luke opened and had his best gig of the run by some way, Langton was up next and also did well, and I closed for the second day in a row; although this was more down to the matter of pulling a name from a hat than anything else. I also had a good gig and received some really positive feedback from audience members, which is always nice.

As proof of how well we had done, we made £44 in our collection bucket at the end, which was our highest total. Throughout this run, we have been really consistent in terms of audience numbers and bucket takings, much more so than 2011.

Although compared with 2010, audience numbers were down quite significantly. We were getting an average of 40 people in for our shows back then in the same room. There were five of us doing the show and we were all full enthusiasm and excitement at what was our first ever Fringe experience. Perhaps the extra manpower is missed, but there was a sense of jadedness creeping in. Nevertheless, we had a good run, people came to see us and they enjoyed themselves.

In other comedy news, our review by Mr Bennett from Chortle has been published. Considering that only Paul had a good gig that day, Luke had a meltdown and I choked, it’s not that bad. Especially given how scathing some of his reviews have been for other shows at Brighton this year.

Here are the highlights bits I have selected:

“Opening act Alex Love was probably the least memorable of the lot, the only thing that really sticks in the mind is his obsession with piss.”

Now, that quote may not be flattering or helpful for furthering my comedy career, but I am highly amused by it.

“There are one or two nice lines, but not really enough for this to feel special. Still, he seems like a nice chap.”

Yeah, there’s not a lot I can use from that. But I will take it as motivation to improve; I’m a better comic than I was a year ago and next year I intend to have improved further.

I would have liked a better write-up, but I know that I didn’t do myself justice that day and choked again when I needed to deliver, just like I did at this week’s game of mini-golf, which I don’t intend to pursue with quite the same levels of dedication.

So there we have it; that is the end of my Brighton Fringe experience for this year. I enjoyed myself. Next year, it will all be different, as Luke will unfortunately not be returning with us as he is moving to Paris. He will be missed.

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Brighton Fringe 2012 – day three

Yesterday’s show had the best attendance of our run at Brighton this year, with a whopping 15 punters.

They were a friendly audience and were laughing, but it was quite hard work. Langton opened the show and did well, but I could tell he wasn’t enjoying himself. Luke was next and probably had his best set so far, but his previous two efforts have been uncharacteristically unhinged because of insomnia. He did okay, but the laughs were not as regular as they normally are.

So, with me on last, I knew that it was down to me to grab the gig by the metaphorical scrotum, or possibly the literal one if necessary.
I had probably my best gig so far down here; the material I’ve been honing for Edinburgh for the past five months is finally all starting to come together pretty nicely. It was much more enjoyable than the previous day, when having a prominent comedy critic in the audience caused my nerves to get to me slightly.

We did well in the collection bucket at the end and made just under £30. So we’ve been pretty consistent with the audience numbers and our collections. We have our final show today and we’re determined to go out on a high.

In non-comedy news, this morning me, Paul and Luke met up with Moz for some crazy golf on the seafront. I got off to a good start and reached the midway stage just one point behind Luke, who was in the lead. The remaining nine holes were going to a close thing, or so I thought. That was until two old people walking past stopped to watch me take a shot and I messed up the hole spectacularly and it was a downward spiral from there. I had choked and lost my nerve when I needed it the most. Moz had a blistering finish to the game, which matched the blistering from his sunburn, and he leapfrogged me into second place, but fortunately I hung on just enough to beat Langton by a point.

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Brighton Fringe – days one and two

This week, I am staying in Brighton to perform a show at the Fringe festival.

It is the third year running I’ve done so and I have always found it much more enjoyable than Edinburgh, partly because the weather is better, and partly because we are only ever down for a few days and not the whole month, so it’s never as draining financially or emotionally.

But from what I read before I came down here, shows have been struggling for an audience. With Snigger Happy, we have always done pretty well with audience numbers because of our many hours of flyering. But when you hear stories about low audience numbers, it is a concern.

This year, me, Paul and Luke are performing at the same venue we had two years ago when there were five of us doing the show. So the venue has some fond memories of those days when we were fresh-faced newbies.

The first day went really well, we managed to get around 12 people in and they were very friendly and audible laughers. It was an enjoyable gig and I was pleased with how my set was received and Paul and Luke also did well. We made about £30 in the collection bucket at the end, which is a good indication that our audience enjoyed it.

For day two, we had to deal with sweltering temperatures because the sun had decided to show itself. Hot weather is not always the friend of the comedian, as the sun generally makes people prefer to go to a beer garden instead of a darkened, stuffy room.

Nevertheless, we still upped our audience numbers from day two by two, so we had 14. I was due to open the show, but minutes before I was about to go on stage, Langton told me that Steve ‘Mr Chortle’ Bennett was in the audience. This added some considerable butterflies to my stomach, as I would obviously like a decent review from one of the premier critics in comedy.

I didn’t start very well, as my opening joke – which often goes down well – was met with a slightly meek response. Added nerves caused me to rush through the first few bits and the hot room was also another factor, but I recovered and got some fairly regular laughs. I would have just liked a better gig in front of a reviewer. So we shall see what it says, but if I can’t take criticism then I shouldn’t be doing comedy.

Langton was up next and did very well indeed. Luke was closing but a week’s worth of insomnia caught up with him and it was quite an odd experience for all watching. But we made £34 in a bucket, so I think the audience enjoyed it. Or they were so confused by a Luke that they just put money in our bucket to escape.

We have two more shows to go.

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A gig in a bicycle repair shop

Thursday night’s gig took me to the bizarre location of a cafe, which also happened to be a bicycle repair shop. I can now add that to the list of bizarre locations I’ve done gigs.

The venue was only about five minutes walk from where I work, so I arrived uncharacteristically early. But when I went in and had a look around, I thought I must have the wrong place, so I went outside to check that it was definitely the right location.

It was the right place, and when I returned later, the microphone was being set up at the far end of the cafe. But there were many people eating at the tables, who didn’t exactly look like they were there for comedy.

It was quite a long room and began to sort of resemble a gig slightly more when the chairs were arranged by the stage area. But even so, I thought that I’d be performing to the handful of people listening at the front, with the rest of the cafe talking amongst themselves.

So I braced myself for apathy, a state I know all too well. This was reinforced when the MC began the show and there was a lot of background chatter. There were about 60 people in the venue and I’d say that around 40 weren’t there for comedy. But when the first act came on, the audience started to listen and then laugh.

I’d braced myself for an odd gig, but it actually turned out to be really nice. I didn’t do too badly and a new line got a big laugh, which is most encouraging from an audience with the majority not there to watch comedy.

In dream news, I dreamt the other night that I was performing my Edinburgh show, but on a stage that was about 20ft above the large room where the audience were spread out across. I then spoke about how I had to be careful because of the large drop, at which point I fell off and landed on the floor. I picked myself up and carried on, but it wasn’t a great gig.  I know that this is not a premonition, because the room myself and Langton are in looks nothing like this, unless there have been some major renovations. If I brace myself for the worst then it’ll turn out good. That’s the way forward.

And tomorrow, it is off to Brighton Fringe for four days of Snigger Happy. Check back for daily updates, which may or may not be here depending on internet/computer access.

–          Snigger Happy runs from 21-24 May at 7pm, at The Temple, 121 Western Road, Brighton, BN1 2AD.

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Another decent Ruby

Another month, another good night at Ruby Tuesdays.

We had a fairly decent numbers in for audience for an open mic gig, with about 12 real people and ten acts filling the small room above the Queen’s Head quite nicely.

The nights have been on a good run for the past few months, and are much more enjoyable since we returned to having the stage area in front of the fireplace in the corner of the room. It could very well be feng shui in action, but then I’d need to believe in it first.

I wasn’t due to go on and definitely didn’t feel like it at the start of the night, but one of the acts didn’t turn up, leaving us with a gap. And before I knew what was happening, I had a set written on my hand through the power of autopilot. Or perhaps it was my future self sending a message back to the past, forcing me to do more gigs because the material I intend to use in Edinburgh needed much more honing.

Regardless of how I ended up there, I was in the stage area and talking into the microphone. I was trying out a set that has been in the works on and off for the past few months, although I first tried a version of it out two years ago. It went down well and is definitely getting to where it needs to be, but more work is required.

Unfortunately no-one flashed me last night. I have expectations on audiences now.

In Edinburgh news, we have finally sorted somewhere to stay for the Fringe. I will be sharing with my good friends, Langton and Moz. But I am concerned about the punishment the toilet bowl will take from us living off beer and haggis for a month; it may need to be reinforced with titanium.

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Audience interaction

On Thursday and Friday this week, I had two gigs that involved a great deal of audience interaction.

First up, I was in a town near Romford, performing in a sports bar with two hecklers on either side of the stage.

I was opening the night and the hecklers were already firing on all cylinders. One was called Colin and the other called Connor, which got a bit confusing but I managed to get their names right, although considering how much alcohol both had consumed, I doubt neither would have noticed if I’d got it wrong.

By my reckoning, Connor had consumed the most alcohol and was the slower of the two. When I made a joke about Imodium, he asked me to explain what Imodium was, as he genuinely had no idea. When I did expand his knowledge, he asked me why anyone would want to use that.

It wasn’t a bad gig, all things considered, I enjoyed it and I got some decent laughs for an opener, with the largest ones from my interaction with Colin and Connor.

The following evening, I was on guest MC duties at my local open mic night in Walthamstow. Now, this was well up there with the weirdest gigs I had ever done. We began the night with three people in the audience, which was 200% larger than Tuesday’s. And it was going okay, then just as the penultimate act in the first half was performing, two more audience members came in and the night was never going to be the same.

As soon as the George and Ange sat down, Ange was heckling in. Nothing malicious, just asking questions about what the act was saying, and making observations. George remained fairly silent at this point.

Just before I brought the final act of the half on, I thought I‘d try and get Ange to stop heckling. So I had a chat with her and this ended up in her lifting up her top, pulling down her bra and flashing me. It was my first proper flash and I’m sure that in front of a big crowd, it would have felt rock n roll. In front of five people, it was a just a bit weird. Nevertheless, I can say that I have been flashed by 20% of people in an audience.

In the second half, George and Ange were joined by Simon, who they didn’t know but was sitting next to them. When I was in the toilet at the interval, Simon asked me if there was any comedy on. I said that there was and he should come and watch it. I kind of wish I hadn’t made him the offer, as he was also very vocal and wouldn’t let one of the acts finish his routine.

I stepped in and told him to let him finish the routine and it kind of worked.

Next, it was George’s turn to shine. Now, George was a short bald man, with a white beard. And when I was trying to restore some sort of order, he got up to the stage area and tried to speak into the microphone, I told him to go and sit down, which he did, but then he said something like: “I sit down for stand-up, then I stand up. I sit down for stand-up, then I stand up.” He said this over and over again, for about a minute or so and was standing up and sitting down again. Then when I tried to engage him, he then pointed his finger at me and said: ‘Sorry? Sorry? Sorry?’ multiple times.

There really is very little you can do in this situation apart from relax, make light of it and wait until things calm down. But for a moment, I thought it was going to descend into chaos, as when George was sitting up and sitting down, someone took his chair away. He didn’t fall over, but I did get a nasty feeling that it could kick off.

Fortunately, things did calm down and we managed to make it to the end of the night with not much more fuss. I had ridden out the storm of weird and somehow managed to keep control of things, for a night that just won’t be forgotten.

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Definitely a gig

I had a gig in Windsor last night, and I’m choosing to call it a gig as there was at least one person listening there who wasn’t a comic.

He was the man on the sound desk, but that’s not the point. He wasn’t a comic, so I’m classifying it as a gig.

It was actually good fun, I got a chance to give some unready Edinburgh stuff an airing in public and see how it felt, which was quite good. It still needs a lot of work before it’s up to scratch, though, but often once you’ve tried it out a couple of times, you get a better idea for the structure and where it needs work.

I had to push through the heavy cold barrier, thanks to Langton’s spit landing in my Guinness on Monday. I don’t think he meant this, he just spits quite a lot when talking. The plus side to having a heavy cold is that it made my voice much deeper voice than normal; so I felt manly, albeit an ill man.

The venue is a great little room, so I’m currently negotiating to see if we can get it for a preview in the next couple of months.

In non-comedy news, I am going to have to start flat-hunting soon. My contract ends at the end of June and my landlord is renting the house out for the Olympics. But it also feels the right time to find somewhere new; and hopefully to a place with a window that is actually double-glazed and doesn’t let the cold in. I don’t really want to still be sleeping in sleeping-bag for much longer.

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(Untitled. Deliberately. In hindsight)

I have had two gigs this past week.

The first on was down in the Wandsworth area. And whenever I get to a gig and the stage area is in the main part of the pub, my heart does sink slightly. Then it sinks further when there is a bar in the middle of the room, with people sitting on the other side of it.

I would describe the gig as an upmarket version of my apathy fest in South Norwood a couple of months ago. It was actually a pretty nice pub, with a friendly audience, but I had to work quite hard in my five minutes spot and ended up hurting my throat as a result. My pain wasn’t for nothing, though, as I did get some laughs and my set probably went as well as it could have done under the circumstances.

I had another gig on Thursday, which was due to start at 8pm, but was put back for 15 minutes or so in the hope that we would have more than one person in the audience. Then suddenly, about 20 people all walked in and it was standing room only.

My set went okay, I was trying out some newer stuff that needs refining, which went almost as well as my tried-and-tested material. I don’t know if this is encouraging or discouraging, because my bankers didn’t exactly fly either.

Nevertheless, it’s good to try stuff out and when it doesn’t go so well it does make me the impetus to improve it.

In the real world, I went out on Friday night for the leaving bash of a couple of friends who are going travelling to New Zealand, where I was exactly five years ago. We went to a ridiculously expensive bar in Covent Garden, which was charging £4.90 for a regular sized bottle of beer. So I decided it would be more cost-effective to buy a bottle of white wine for £17 and drink it all. I hate white wine, but if it means that I can save some money and sort of beat the system, then I’ll take the hit and risk the sick stains on my clothes. But it led to this exchange:

Barmaid: How many glasses would you like?

Me: One.

The barmaid’s laugh may very well have been the best one I got all week. I was going originally going to write this yesterday, but that wine caused my head to hurt quite a lot.